By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thuja occidentalis-Thuja

Family: Cupressaceae

Other names: American Arbor-Vitae, western hemlock

hazardsmallAn essential oil from the leaves is poisonous if taken in large doses. Nausea, vomiting, flatulence, indigestion reported. Possible asthma & seizures . This plant should not be used by pregnant women. Use oil internally in small quantities and under medical supervision. Death and convulsions reported with improper internal use.

American arbor-vitae, Thuja was much used by many native North American Indian tribes as a medicinal herb to treat fevers, coughs, headaches, swollen hands and rheumatic problems. The plant has an established antiviral activity and is most commonly used in modern herbalism to treat warts and polyps, being prescribed both internally and externally for these conditions. The plant can be used to induce menstruation and so should not be prescribed for pregnant women. The recently dried leafy young twigs are alterative, anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic and emmenagogue. The plant is being used internally in the treatment of cancer, especially cancer of the uterus. A tea made from the leaves is used in the treatment for bronchitis and other respiratory problems, colds, headaches and as a cough syrup. The plants diuretic properties make it useful in treating acute cystitis and bed-wetting in children. The leaves are used in steam baths in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, colds etc. Externally, the leaves are used as a wash for swollen feet and burns. Extracts of the leaves can be painted on painful joints or muscles as a counter irritant, improving local blood supply and thus facilitating the removal of toxins, easing pain and stiffness. A tincture of the leaves has been used in the treatment of warts, piles, bed sores and fungal infections. The leaves and young twigs can be harvested as required and used fresh or dried. Thuja oil is also called ‘Oil of white cedar’, obtained from the leaves, is an essential oil that is antiseptic, expectorant and rubefacient. It is used internally to promote menstruation and relieve rheumatism. This volatile oil is toxic and poisoning from overdoses has occurred, it should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner and should not be prescribed for pregnant women. The oil also stimulates the heart and causes convulsions in high doses. A tea of the inner bark is used to promote menstruation and in the treatment of consumption and coughs. A homeopathic remedy is made from the leaves and twigs, gathered when the tree is flowering. It is used in the household as a treatment for Warts but also has a range of other applications that should only be prescribed by a competent homeopath.

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Thuja:

Thuja occidentalis is an evergreen Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 5 m (16ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone 2. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Apr to May, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.

Cultivation of Thuja:

Prefers a permanently moist soil, it is intolerant of dry soils. A useful plant for very poorly-drained soils. The best stands in America are on well-drained soils. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Succeeds in sandy soils and on chalk. A very hardy tree, tolerating very cold winters with temperatures down to -46°c. In cold weather the leaves turn brown, becoming green again in the spring. It is usually slow growing and short-lived in cultivation in Britain and rarely looks thrifty. However, there are some good specimens in western Britain. Some cultivars are more healthy, ‘Lutea’ is growing very well in several places and ‘Spiralis’ is also growing well. Thuja trees live 200 – 300 years in the wild. Sometimes planted as a timber tree in C. Europe. Plants cannot regenerate from old wood. Pruning is not normally necessary for this species, any pruning that is carried out should be done with care. The wood and the foliage are strongly aromatic. The crushed leaves have a scent of apples.

Propagation of Thuja:

Seed – best sown when ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed germinates best if given a short cold stratification. It can be sown in a cold frame in late winter. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If growing large quantities of plants, the seed can be sown in an outdoor seed bed in mid spring. Grow the plants on for two years and then plant them out into their permanent positions in late autumn or early spring. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 – 8cm with a heel, July/August in a shaded frame. Forms roots by the end of September but it should be overwintered in a frame. Cuttings of almost ripe wood, 5 – 10cm with a heel, September in a cold frame. Forms roots in the following summer. Plant out in autumn or spring.

By Crusier (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Collection: The twigs of this evergreen conifer can be gathered all year round, but are best during the summer.

Culinary uses of Thuja:

Edible Parts: Stem.
Edible Uses: Tea.

Pith of young shoots – cooked. It can be added to soups. Pleasantly sweet, the pith was used as the basis of the soup according to one report. Inner bark – cooked. It is only used in times of emergency or scarcity. The inner bark can be dried and ground into a powder, then used with wheat or other cereals in making bread, biscuits etc. The leafy branchlets are used as a tea substitute but are probably best avoided by pregnant women. An aromatic flavour. Another report says that the foliage and bark are used, the resulting tea is a good source of vitamin C.

thuja,Thuja_occidentalisMedicinal uses of Thuja:

Actions: Expectorant, anti-microbial, diuretic, astringent, alterative.

Part Used: Young twigs

Indications: Thuja’s main action is due to its stimulating and alterative volatile oil. In bronchial catarrh Thuja combines expectoration with a systemic stimulation beneficial if there is also heart weakness. Thuja should be avoided where the cough is due to over stimulation, as in dry irritable coughs. Thuja has a specific reflex action on the uterus and may help in delayed menstruation, but because of this action is should be avoided in pregnancy. Where ordinary incontinence occurs due to loss of muscle tone, Thuja may be used. It has a role to play in the treatment of psoriasis and rheumatism. Externally Thuja oil for warts may be used . It is reported to counteract the ill effects of smallpox vaccination. A marked anti-fungal effect is found if used externally for ringworm and thrush. CAUTION: Avoid during pregnancy.

Ellingwood describes it thus: “It has been used extensively by all physicians in the treatment of cancer. It is claimed to exercise an abortive influence over incipient cancer and to retard the progress of more advanced cases. In extreme cases it will remove the fetor, retard the growth and materially prolong the life of the patient. It should be given internally and the dosage increased to the extreme limit. It should be also kept in contact with the parts externally or injected into the structures. Epithelioma, condylomata and all simple cancerous growths should be treated with it.

Thuja is given internally for cancer and for the pains of cancer it is applied externally, when possible, occasionally with good results. Thuja certainly exercises a direct influence upon the glandular structures and function. In what manner this influence is exercised is unknown, but in any disease that involves the gland, this remedy must be considered, and if there are no contraindications it can be tried and in many cases as with the ductless glands, it seems to act in a direct manner.

“Thuja is directly indicated, first, s a peculiar alterative, in improving diathetic conditions of the blood. Again, it acts directly upon abnormal growths – perversions, such as peculiar conditions of the cell structure of the skin and other external structure. It is thus indicated in all abnormal growths of the skin or mucous membranes. It exercises a specific influence upon catarrhal discharges, correcting the glandular faults that are to blame for such a condition wherever they may be. It is specific to urinary irritation in aged people especially; also in childhood. It strengthens the sphincter of the bladder.

“As an external application Thuja produces at first a sensation of smarting or tingling when applied to open sores or wounds and it is usually best to dilute it with on, two or four parts of water, or to combine the non-alcoholic extract with an ointment base in the above proportion. This constitutes an excellent mildly antiseptic and actively stimulating dressing to indolent, phagedenic or gangrenous ulcers. It is of much service in bed sores and in other open ulcers dependent upon local or general nerve exhaustion. In chronic skin diseases of either a non-specific or specific character, it is a useful remedy. Vegetation’s of all kinds, especially those upon mucous surfaces, will yield to it readily. It is a useful agent in the treatment of post-nasal catarrh and nasal polypi. A small dose internally 4 or 5 times daily, with the application of fluid hydrastis in a spray, will quickly retard or remove such abnormal growths. It is also applicable to sloughing wounds and to phagedena or the venereal organs. It is a positive remedy in the treatment of senile gangrene. It causes gangrenous surfaces to dry without hemorrhage or other discharge, destroys offensive odors and influences granulation.

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

“The agent is especially advised in the treatment of urinary disorders’ of the aged and young. It gives satisfaction in the treatment of nocturnal enuresis when the difficulty is of functional origin. It is also valuable when there is dribbling of urine, loss of control from paralysis of the sphincter, perhaps, in the aged, where urinary incontinence is present, with severe coughs, lack of control when coughing or sneezing. Sometimes in severe cases of nocturnal enuresis, it is accompanied with belladonna, or Rhus aromatica with good results. In old men with chronic prostatitis, with constant dribbling of the urine, this agent is valuable. It relieves the weakness at the neck of the bladder. It tones the muscular structure of the bladder and exercises a desirable influence over the mucous structures of the entire urinary apparatus. It also stimulates secretion within the kidney tubules by its direct influence upon the epithelial cells.

“The remedy is valuable in the treatment of disorders of the mucous lining of the bronchial tubes. It is beneficial in ulcerative forms of sore throat, where the secretions are fetid in character. It may be inhaled in chronic bronchitis, bronchorrhea; bronchitis, with offensive discharge; chronic nasal catarrh. Hemorrhage from these organs is beneficially influenced by its use. A number of cases of spermatorrhea have been cured since our previous report on this remedy. The balanit is from cystitis with frequent urination, indicates this remedy. It is beneficial when the urine seems to burn or scald in the passing, when there is local soreness in the urethra or neck of the bladder, when the bladder tolerates but little urine at a time and the patient must rise frequently during the night. In cases or verucca on the genitalia or rectum, this agent is advantageously used, especially if preceded by a mild escharotic. In prolapsus of the rectum, especially in cases depending upon paralysis, this agent may be diluted and injected. It has stimulating properties, which restore the vitality of the part. It is good for fissure of the rectum with piles.”

Preparations & Dosage:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Other uses of Thuja:

Broom,  Essential,  Fibre,  Incense,  Repellent,  Tannin,  Wood

Tolerant of regular trimming, though not into the old wood, it can be grown as a hedge. The fresh branches are used as besoms. Their aromatic smell serves to deodorize the house whilst sweeping. The leaves have been kept in the clothes cupboard as a perfume, incense and insect repellent. The leaves and stems have been used as an incense. An essential oil is obtained from the leaves and branches, it is used in perfumery and in medicines. It is poisonous if taken internally. This essential oil also has insect repellent properties. The tough and stringy bark has been used to weave fibre bags. The bark is a source of tannin Wood – light, soft, not strong, brittle, coarse grained, very durable, easily worked, does not warp. It weighs 20lb per cubic foot. Used especially where contact with water cannot be avoided, for canoes, garden buildings, shingles, posts etc.

Esoteric uses of Thuja:

None known but if you use this herb for any purpose please let us know!

The Chemistry:

Constituents: l% Volatile oil including thujone; flavonoid glycoside; mucilage; tannin.

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